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Senate Clears Bill Creating Harsher Penalties for Domestic Abusers

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- A bill to better protect victims of domestic violence cleared the Iowa Senate on Wednesday as the measure passed by a unanimous vote 50-0.

“I'm very proud of this bill,” said State Sen. Steve Sodders, (D) State Center.

Sodders, a lawmaker, and a member of law enforcement sponsored the measure in the Senate. Among other things, it creates mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for stalking, harassment and repeat domestic abusers.

It also allows judges to impose harsher penalties.

“It gives some judges leeway to say, ‘hey, I'm looking at the facts of the case and one year is not long enough, you need to be in longer,’” explained Sodders.

Lawmakers say locking up violent offenders is only part of the battle. They want to require abusers to undergo a risk assessment and complete treatment programs before being eligible for parole or work release.

“We want them to complete their programming before they're released back into the community,” said Tiffany Allison.

As a survivor of domestic violence, Allison is now an advocate for other victims. She says she and many others only feel safe when their perpetrator is behind bars.

“I think this will be a very big help to potential future victims,” she said.

The Senate version of the bill now heads back to the Iowa House, where it originated, for approval.

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